Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers pumped his fist, like a golfer who just nailed a hole-in-one. Then, he gave owner Steve Ballmer a pound, then a giant hug. It was as if Rivers made Ballmer a promise at the beginning of the year, then delivered on that promise when no one thought it was possible.
If we learned anything from the Clippers’ historic comeback to beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 Monday night, it’s that anything is possible. Maybe it’s a lesson we should have learned from Rivers a decade ago.
This was the scene and the feeling after Los Angeles pulled off the most incredible comeback victory in playoff history. The eighth-seeded Clippers trailed the championship-favorite Golden State Warriors by 31 in the third quarter.
The Clippers, though, never gave in. They never quit. Instead, after trailing 31, they outscored the Warriors 72-37 in the final 19:30 — in Oakland. Los Angeles stole Game 2 at Oracle Arena, 135-131. The series is now tied at one apiece, and it’s heading back to Staples Center for the next two games.
“We’re some tough guys,” Ballmer shouted at Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. “Physical and mental, we’re some tough guys. Damn I love our guys.”
Make no mistake about it, this is still the Warriors’ series to lose. They are championship favorites on a quest to become the fourth franchise to three-peat in NBA history. Even without DeMarcus Cousins, who suffered a non-contact quad injury in the first quarter, Golden State still has two MVPs and two of the best defenders in NBA history. Depth or no depth, Boogie or no Boogie, the Warriors are still the team to beat.
But for Los Angeles, this Game 2 victory signifies something greater. Even if they don’t secure another win this series, Los Angeles has completed something special.
This was the biggest win in Clippers history
The Clippers are a team with no star. They were written off at the beginning of the season. They were dismissed after they dealt Tobias Harris to Philadelphia at the trade deadline. They were overlooked when they drew Golden State as the eighth seed in the West. To be honest, they’ve been overshadowed as the little brother in the Lakers’ city.
That team, who many expected the Warriors to sweep handily, came away with a win against one of the best teams of all-time. Lou Williams absolutely lost his mind. He had 36 points and 11 assists off the bench. Montrezl Harrell literally did not miss a shot. Patrick Beverley did what he does best: irritate. And Rivers played two rookies — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet — who were both sensational. Everyone on the floor gave everything they had.
That’s the kind of team fans love to support. It’s the kind of team coaches love to coach, with the kind of coach players love. It’s the kind of team free agents watch. And they’re absolutely paying attention.
The Clippers will have cap space for not just one, but two max players when free agency strikes July 1. This summer’s free agency class is loaded. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Jimmy Butler, and others will hit the open market.
Any one of those players can alter a franchise for the better. Any two of them could turn them into immediate championship contenders.
That’s why Rivers so vehemently pumped his fist before embracing Ballmer after defying the odds to beat the Warriors. It’s why the weight of the world just slid right off their shoulders.
The Clippers just proved they don’t need those superstars to be competitive. They only need each other. And that in itself is the beauty of a win like theirs in Game 2.
It’s something everyone watching wanted to be a part of. And, come July, whoever wants in can get in.